Winter Trails Outreach
Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak, Lkdcom@visi.com
Since 1995, Winter Trails Day has introduced thousands of people to cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In 2011, more than 11,000 people participated in Winter Trails Day events across the Snowbelt. “There’s no demo event in the country that even comes close to this,” says Connor Folley, marketing manager, Madshus USA.
The 17th annual Winter Trails event was held January 7th, 2012 at over 80 locations nationwide. Although some areas of the country are experiencing poor snow conditions, the outreach program still attracted large crowds.
The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA has hosted a Winter Trails Day event at Snoqualmie Pass for at least 11 years. More than 750 people attended the 2012 event. Folley andSarah Rose, marketing manager for Tubbs snowshoes spent the day helping attendees try on skinny skis and snowshoes. “We were surprised at how long the flow of people continued to come in. We saw waves and waves of people coming in to the demo,” says Folley.
Based on review of registrations, many of the attendees attending Winter Trails Day events are newcomers to cross country skiing and snowshoeing activities. Long time sponsors like Atlas, Tubbs and Rossignol build their programs to meet the needs of this audience.
Coordinated media coverage by the SnowSports Industry America (SIA) and the Winter Trails Day program provides effective outreach to new skiers. “We see people who haven’t cross country skied in 10-15 years and want to try it again,” notes Ryan Green, Nordic division manager, Rossignol. “The attendance is skewed more towards first timers and people who don’t consider themselves cross country skiers.” Rossignol adjusts the product mix presented at the events accordingly. “We try to bring out touring skis and shorter sizes. At the end of the day we’re all trying to get more people to try cross country skiing,” says Green.
Folley reports that feedback from previous years and sales representatives attending events across the country reinforce that finding. “The vast majority of visitors are getting on skis and snowshoes for the first time,” Folley says.
The high caliber of vendor partners involved also plays an important role in attracting participants. “Our partners and the brands they represent are of the highest quality including Atlas, MSR, Tubbs, and REI and I believe potential new customers were drawn to our event because it is such a great way to try out a variety of snowshoes in real conditions at no charge. The event is well established and all partners involved do a good job in publicizing the event in our region,” reports Valerie Normand, membership programs manager.
Significantly, families make up a large percentage of Winter Trails Day event participants. “The vast majority of those attending our event were families and first-timers. I spoke with one woman who attended last year for the first time, then bought a pair of snowshoes after that event, and says, “Now, I’m hooked,” reports Normand.
Participants are also doing their homework before attending the events. “We see a lot of people were coming to the Tubbs booth asking to try different models in a specific order. They were coming to make an informed buying decision,” says Rose.
Atlas and Tubbs Snowshoes, founding sponsors of the Winter Trails program, offers participants a gift with purchase incentive to visit retailers after the event. “The amount of families we see redeeming purchase incentive coupons is startling,” notes Sarah Rose, marketing manager for Tubbs snowshoes. “Looking at the sales records, the last names fall in clumps of 3, 4 and 5. People are coming in and buying 3-4 pairs of snowshoes at a time and outfitting the family.”
Poor snow conditions in some parts of the country aren’t dampening new comers enthusiasm for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. “We find that the snowshoeing crowd may not as hardcore as powder skiers and snowboarders,” says Folley. “They tend be a little less snobby about getting ideal powder conditions versus taking advantage of the opportunity to get out on the trails. We are still seeing strong sell through. You are only making this purchase once. There are no $70 lift tickets to buy every time you go out.”
Leveraging the success of Winter Trails Day events, Rossignol, Atlas, Tubbs and Madshus continue to support demo events throughout the winter. “Once we make an investment in a demo fleet we try to get those skis out as much as possible,” reports Green.
Even a faltering economy hasn’t reduced the joy of getting outside during the winter. “While the economy hasn’t been great, it’s been just right for snowshoes,” says Folley. “The activity is affordable, the incremental costs are low and its made snowshoeing incredibly popular in these times.”
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples. Lou Dzierzak has written about these topics for over a decade. Best Practices will shorten the learning curve by offering case studies, resources and how-to tips from experts in specific fields. If you have suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact Lou at Lkdcom@visi.com.